Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Truth About Love (2004): review- 0/10 and Why are British Films so Awful?

The Truth about Love (2004)

Both parties in a sexually disfunctional couple in Bristol seek to restore the passion in their lives: this is
a disgracefully poor film, containing mostly unfunny, smutty jokes and rotten acting.

Supposedly a farce.


Why are British Films so Awful?

I can't answer this from an industry perspective. There are reasons concerned with talent drain to the USA, the greater opportunites for ambitious people in TV, the cultural status of theatre in the UK and attitudes towards cinema as an industry. Also there will be some issues connected to funding. These arguments are outside the remit of this piece, which is simply to make the following observations about recent British films (the observations are interlinked):

1. The Curse of Richard Curtis: the too clever script, the banal character beneath, the insistence on everyone getting along in the end, the hateful jolliness, the untruthfulness, the smugness.

2. Provincial but not provincial enough. You'll get a setting (say Bristol in the film above) but the characters and situations don't issue from it at all- it'll just be a backdrop. It's a missed opportunity. Notting Hill does this too, to such an extent that it contains almost no Black characters, despite being, ostensibly, set in a very racially mixed area. This occurs in Curtis scrpited films- always. There are exceptions such as The Full Monty, An Education or Ken Loach's films.

3. I'm funny. This isn't just a problem in film. The British (more specifically the English) suffer from a delusion: they think they are funny when they aren't and they think that making a joke about things is necessarily the cleverest or most interesting way of dealing with it. This is connected to the English fear of seriousness. Comedy only really works when it sits close to something very grave: you have to grasp both gravity and humour at the same time or the films you make will simply be trivial.

4. Avoiding the really interesting problems facing the UK. There is an awful lot of political correctness knocking about the UK film world, a world where all blacks are good and working class people are solid etc. and everyone gets along very nicey nicey in the end. In the film above, for instance, the only black man who appears is very nice and innocent.* I think the whole UK film industry must have had to sit through classes on "social ethics and cinema". Or maybe UK directors are all so nice and middle-class that they are unable to make any original observation of character: they just see what they want to see (director Ken Loach has actually managed to turn the very film-making process itself into a branch of social work!). Or because they sometimes recieve government funding the scripts all have to contain satisfy certain quotas and please the members of inclusiveness obsessed committees.

All the people in the film above are really nice underneath, likewise in Four Weddings, where they live in a world of utter loveliness. The revoltingly twee Peter's Friends is particularly nasty in this respect.

But this isn't really how the British truly regard themselves. A glance at any UK newpaper or magazine will reveal the UK is riddled with antagonisms, snobberies, conflict and loathing. In fact, I'd say that when the British try to do "we're all in this together" or "we're just like a big family" they lose the characteristics that make them at all admirable or interesting (if not necessarily likable): the wit, insightfulness, originality and truthfulness that characterises a great British film artist like Hitchcock. Could ther be a more cloying film than Love Actually?

The British deserve better than this muck, which is no better than soft-left Nulab propaganda (note that the vomit-inducingly p.c. "Breaking and Entering" was directed by the same guy, Minghella, who directed 2005's Labour Party Political Broadcast. He was chair of the Board of Governors of the British Film Instute from 2003- 2008, so I suppose he can fairly be blamed for much of the above).

5. No grandeur. This is perhaps connected to the British landscape, to its visual culture and to British hostility to Idealism. But it does tend to lead to very puddling art. But then they used to do grandeur, with films by Lean, Powell and Pressburger, or Roeg, say. The film format is a big format: it's as if all UK films are designed to be seen redux, on TV screens.

6. Middle-brow. Maybe this is a marketting department led thing, but is there something wrong with films for intelligent people?. There are actually quite a lot of them out there.

7. Self-satisfaction. Where is the sense of wider engagement in the world? See "provinciality", above.

8. Soap opera format. This means characters are given little space to transform. A bunch of friends and their little lives. So what?

*Not that he shouldn't be either nice or innocent, but the way that non-whites on the screen are necessarily goodies is a form of racism in itself- and extremely patronising besides. I'm absolutely not against having films about minorities: what I'm opposing are films in which characters from minorities become goody-goody cardboard cut-outs.

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